Whether you are a college senior trying to finish up the final thesis before the deadline or a parent of a newborn, sleep-deprived haze is the new “normal.” Although everyone knows about the psychological and physical benefits of getting a good night sleep, yet, there are times in your life when this activity becomes a luxury which you just cannot afford.
So how to deal with sleep deprivation while not letting it mess up other aspects of your life? Business Insider asked the perfect person the same question, and as expected, got some great advice for us all.
John McGuire is a former Navy SEAL who has gone through intensive training to survive chronic sleep deprivation. He not only made it through Hell Week, a notorious 5-day suffer-fest where upcoming SEALs are allowed only 4 hours of sleep, but he also survived the years of lack of sleep that comes with fathering five kids.
Here are some tested battle strategies he suggests for hustling through sleep deprivation:
Get your head in the game
He mentions that no matter how bad you are suffering from sleep deprivation, the best strategy is to keep yourself focused on your goals. McGuire says,
“You can’t lose your focus or discipline,”
Whatever challenges lay ahead, you just can’t let that constant throbbing in your head get the best out of you,
“Self-doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever has.”
Delegate when you can’t concentrate
“In the field, lack of communication can get someone killed,” says McGuire.
This theory applies whether you are moving to sort out a hostage crisis or have to wake up for a midnight diaper change, remaining calm and working as a team is the only way to go.
When a person is sleep-deprived, being irritable and getting angry for no reason is the natural reaction. However, the last thing that you need is negativity to seep through.
So, how do we prevent this?
Remind yourself: I didn’t get a lot of sleep but I love my family, so I’m going to really watch what I say.
And when communicating, you can also give others a heads up:
“If you are, you’ll be more likely say something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling myself because I didn’t get enough sleep,’” he says.
Put the oxygen mask on yourself first
The key to battle constant insomnia or enforced sleep deprivation is to schedule your life in a more orderly fashion, particularly the exercise, and take care of yourself before worrying about others.
“It’s like on an airplane: You need to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can put one on your kid.”
Exercising regularly reduces stress and helps you feel better,
“You can hold your baby and do squats if you want,” he says. “It’s not as much about the squats as making sure you exercise and clear the mind.”
Sleep whenever you get the chance
While most people who take a nap of more than 20 minutes end up waking more tired than before, McGuire says that he has seen guys sleep on wood pallets on a jittery military airplane, and even caught a guy fall asleep standing up. When the going gets tough, even a few seconds of sleep seems like a blessing,
“Sleep is like water: you need it when you need it.”
Know your limits
Lack of proper sleep can lead to a lack of patience, urge to munch on unhealthy foods, and go through day after day without getting a real sense of your work.
“A good leader makes decisions to improve things, not make them worse,” says McGuire. “If you’re in bad shape, you could fall asleep at the wheel, you can harm your child. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”
McGuire has special advice for the parents who are currently battling against a crying toddler and getting insufficient shut-eye,
“You learn a lot about people and yourself through your children,” he says. “Have lots of adventures. Take lots of pictures and give lots of hugs,” he says. “It won’t last forever — and you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when it’s over.”
Have some tips on battling sleep deprivation? Comment below!